Bluegrass music is not for everyone. Often, the fiddle, the banjo, and/or the mandolin can be abrasive to people who don’t like this style of music. What makes a bluegrass band extra special, in my mind, is when they can create music that is everything that bluegrass is and still appeals to every kind of music lover. The Deadly Gentlemen is that band. With 5 instrumentalists that can all sing, you get supremely talented musicians and vocalists creating layered, mellow, and just damn good bluegrass music.
Since Carry Me To Home, The Deadly Gentlemen have shown some interesting growth. Where that album contained a lot of shouting and call and response singing, this album features a lot of harmonizing, 2, 3, 4, and sometimes 5 part harmonies. It’s actually pretty incredible how well these guys all sing together. “I Fall Back”, on top of featuring some excellent banjo work, has no words that aren’t sung by more than one voice. It’s a great example of how vocals are always stellar and and different instruments stand out in every song. “Bored of the Raging” is an excellent song lyrically that features stellar fiddle work. “Bored of the raging, I’m bored of the feeling./ It only takes you up from the floor to the ceiling./ Tired of just living, I’m tired of the real thing./ Up and down all day, from the floor to the ceiling.”
The title track on the album is a great example of the band’s old sound and how they’ve transformed that into something that everyone will love. It’s nearly a call and response song, one that says, essentially, you can do to me whatever you’d like. “It’s ok, you can bewilder me, be wily./ Be good to me. Be bad to me. Be kindly.” It’s a great idea and it’s awesomely executed. “A Faded Star” is a faster, fiddle and banjo driven tune. With a line like “Fate itself is the strangest force./ Change yourself and you change its course”, it’s a song that takes a lot of listens to understand. It’s almost a mantra to not take your life for granted, “I will burn till I’m faded, gone.”
“Beautiful’s Her Body” is a slower, love song. Unrequited love can be so difficult, but this song makes it beautiful. “Beautiful’s her body and savage is her mind./ Do I have to wait forever through the ravages of time?” As far as songs that show off instrumentals, “All the Broken Pieces”, while being a song full of words, would work almost as well as an instrumental, especially the banjo/mandolin combo. “Working” is old school The Deadly Gentlemen. It’s a call and response type song about work and how it’s not as bad as it seems. “Work’s not bad and work’s not hard./ I don’t kill chickens or break rocks in the yard.” The tongue in cheek lyricism almost masks the seriousness of the words.
The last two songs are two of the most poignant songs, one that’s don’t try to hide their emotionality. “Now is Not the Time” starts with the line “I’ll be leaving in the morning as I tend to do” and doesn’t stop there. It’s a song that sounds forlorn, very effectively using the fiddle and mandolin to give it that sad, parting sound. When it finally ends with “I left so many days, so many years ago./ Now, one at a time, I’m running out of years to blow”, its clear that this song hits as hard as any we’ve heard this year. “Falsehearted Anthem”, the album’s last song, is a song that sounds both remorseful and hopeful. It starts slow and builds in tempo creating a musical effect that mirrors the lyrics. “You can beg me, borrow me, steal me away,/ how could tomorrow be better than today?/ I don’t care how you come, baby come true./ So many dreams don’t do that, maybe some do.”
The Deadly Gentlemen have created a masterpiece with Roll Me, Tumble Me, a bluegrass album that will surely please everyone that listens. If you like harmonies, banjos, mandolins, lyrics, there’s something on this album for everyone. It’s clear that these guys aren’t just masters as individuals, but really have found a groove as a group that has enabled them to craft an incredibly unique and nearly perfect album. Below you can listen to the album in its entirety. Enjoy.